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Wednesday, July 1, 2015

Speculative 'Reviews': Nikon Nikkor AF-S VR 16-50mm f/2.8 DX

July 2015 Update:
Bumping up an article only a few weeks after it was posted is quite peculiar, but there is a pressing reason. That a lens very close to what I was describing in this article was announced! Nikon revealed a 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR lens. It's basically exactly the lens I speculated below, only a bit longer in focal length (which also explains the variable aperture).

What becomes interesting now, is:
a) Is the 16-80mm f/2.8-4E ED VR a replacement for the 16-85 f/3.5-f/5.6 lens or for the 17-55 f/2.8 lens? The answer is, both, to a certain extent. The suggested price tag (a bit below $1000) also points to the middle ground between these lenses. The thing is that (at the very least psychologically), a variable aperture lens does not really pass as a "pro" lens. On the other hand, Nikon has thrown a lot of cutting-edge technologies on it, and I expect the image quality to be superb (probably better than the already splendid 16-85mm f/3.5-f/5.6). Which brings us to...
b) Is there a pro body coming? Very tricky to answer. A non-variable aperture lens would very strongly suggest that; now, it's a bit more murky. But, hard-pressed, I would tentatively say: "Yes, I think Nikon might have something up their DX sleeves"


This is the first article in a series of Speculative 'Reviews' articles that might appear from time to time. To state the obvious: This lens does not exist as I'm writing this (May 2015), and it may never appear, either. I have no sources in Nikon (or elsewhere). This article is a product of my knowledge and experience, so, in other words, it is an educated guess. The purpose of these articles is to make us all think, what would this lens mean for Nikon photographers, how would it affect our shooting, and in which way would it affect the market.


A DX-only Nikon Nikkor AF-S VR 16-50mm f/2.8 DX would send a very powerful message: Nikon has not abandoned the DX advanced amateurs (or semi-pro even). In terms of 35mm equiv. focal length, we would be talking about something like a 24-70mm f/2.8 VR lens. Think of the pro-caliber Nikkor 24-70 f/2.8, but with VR (and in DX size/weight). The only similar lens in Nikon's lineup would be the 17-55 f/2.8. Great optics, but no VR, expensive, and oversized. A comparable lens could also be the Sigma ART 18-35 f/1.8 - great optics, no VR, a tiny bit faster, but pretty limited in terms of focal length (especially considering the presence of the small, cheap, and awesome Nikkor 35mm f/1.8).

A fast midrange zoom can be very useful in rapidly changing scenes.
This one is taken with the Nikon Nikkor AF-S 17-55 f/2.8


Obviously, this would be a DX midrange dream come true for a significant number of DX photographers - provided, of course, that the optical formula contained some seriously capable glass. A lens like this, paired with a fast 70-200 tele could be the only two lenses you ever need.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Exposure: The ONLY Technical Thing You Need to Master

Last time we talked about SWAGO, and I tried to convey my - dare I say it? - surprise at the extent to which camera & lens choices become irrelevant. In that article, I mentioned that any camera which allows you to set exposure (or, at the very least, allowing you to control exposure compensation) is enough.

That wasn't an exaggeration. As the title of this article argues, exposure is about the only technical thing (i.e. leaving composition aside) that you need to understand and use well in order to create magnificent photos.

I can already hear objections flying at me. "What about color?!", you might shout. Color is indeed important in creating a mood, and so is tonality. But all of these are secondary compared to exposure, and the reason is...


Monday, June 22, 2015

SWAGO: The Biggest Secret on how to Make Great Photos

I'm back from a highly rewarding (also photographically) trip to lovely Greece, and my bags are full of souvenirs. The most valuable ones, however, are things you can't put into bags. They are experiences and meanings.

image of a beach
When you are in this scene, stuff like "Dynamic Range", ISO, focal length, etc., become utterly meaningless and - frankly - hopelessly incapable of conveying the sublime feelings you experience

In terms of photographic lessons, the most important one I learned during these past two weeks can be summed up in a single acronym: SWAGO. But what is SWAGO and how does it help you get interesting photographs? It's simpler than you think (and yet it revolves around photographic issues so deeply embedded into modern photographic minds, that it can be hard to embrace). SWAGO stands for